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Diversification of U.S. medical schools via affirmative action implementation

Shaheen Emmanuel Lakhan

Author Affiliations

Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA

BMC Medical Education 2003, 3:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-3-6

Published: 17 September 2003



The diversification of medical school student and faculty bodies via race-conscious affirmative action policy is a societal and legal option for the U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled its use constitutional. This paper investigates the implications of affirmative action, particularly race-conscious compared to race-blind admissions policy; explains how alternative programs are generally impractical; and provides a brief review of the history and legality of affirmative action in the United States.


Selection based solely on academic qualifications such as GPA and MCAT scores does not achieve racial and ethnic diversity in medical school, nor does it adequately predict success as practicing physicians. However, race-conscious preference yields greater practice in underserved and often minority populations, furthers our biomedical research progression, augments health care for minority patients, and fosters an exceptional medical school environment where students are better able to serve an increasingly multicultural society.


The implementation of race-conscious affirmative action results in diversity in medicine. Such diversity has shown increased medical practice in underserved areas, thereby providing better health care for the American people.

affirmative action; race-conscious; non-cognitive factors; medical admissions; diversity; consumer choice; minority patients.